Posts tagged with "The Washington Post"

Appeals court decision could limit enforcement of Voting Rights Act

Novembver 22, 2023

On Monday, November 19, a federal court issued a decision that could severely curtail enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which could affect voters of color nationwide and will probably be appealed to the Supreme Court, reports The Washington Post.

In its 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling that private citizens and groups like the NAACP cannot bring lawsuits under a provision that forbids discrimination in state and local elections laws.

The appellate court found that the key section of the act can only be enforced by the U.S. attorney general. That upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky, who in 2022 dismissed a lawsuit challenging Arkansas’ new district map because he said that the Justice Department had to join the plaintiffs.

At the time, voting rights groups argued in their lawsuit that a new map of congressional districts weakened Black voters’ electoral power in the state. Rudofsky, an appointee of President Donald Trump, gave Attorney General Merrick Garland five days to join the groups in the case. When he refused, the case was dismissed.

The 8th Circuit’s decision to uphold Rudofsky’s ruling will probably be appealed to the Supreme Court, and the justices may be inclined to consider it, along with a conflicting ruling on the same issue by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

If the 8th Circuit ruling is upheld, it could weaken the tools used by voters of color and voting rights activists to ensure voting access by marginalized groups by blocking individuals and private groups from using Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which passed in 1965, that allows citizens to bring legal challenges to redistricting decisions and other actions that weaken their voting power.

In their decision, the 8th Circuit judges noted that, in the past 40 years, at least 182 successful Section 2 cases have been filed and, of those, only 15 “were brought solely” by the attorney general.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Colorado judge rules Trump can be on ballot—but says he ‘engaged’ in insurrection

November 21, 2023

On Friday, November 17, a judge ruled that former President Donald Trump had engaged in insurrection by inciting a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021—but decided that he is not barred from appearing on the primary ballot in Colorado, reports The Washington Post.

The ruling in Colorado’s state court— the first to find that the presidential candidate had participated in an insurrection—served as a rebuke to the Republican front-runner, even as it provided him with a legal victory. Trump has won a string of cases brought by opponents who are trying to keep him off the ballot under a provision of the Constitution (the 14th Amendment) that bars officials who engage in insurrection from holding office.

Denver District Judge Sarah B. Wallace wrote that Trump “acted with the specific intent to disrupt the Electoral College certification of President Biden’s electoral victory through unlawful means; specifically, by using unlawful force and violence.” And, she concluded, “that Trump incited an insurrection on January 6, 2021 and therefore ‘engaged’ in insurrection.”

An appeal is expected and could ultimately be resolved by the Colorado Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wallace’s ruling came a week and a half after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that former President Donald Trump could not be removed from the primary ballot in that state and three days after a Michigan judge reached the same conclusion.

Despite the decision’s blunt wording and findings, Trump campaign spokesman Steve Cheung championed the ruling, calling it “another nail in the coffin of the un-American ballot challenges.”

Trump opponents have been bringing their lawsuits state by state in hopes of ultimately securing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that keeps Trump off the ballot in all states. The cases are moving quickly because caucuses and primaries will be held starting in January.

Adopted in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, the 14th Amendment granted citizenship to those born or naturalized in the United States and guaranteed civil rights to all Americans, including those who had been enslaved. The amendment’s lesser-known Section 3 was aimed at limiting the power of former Confederates by barring from office those who had sworn an oath to the Constitution and later engaged in insurrection.

Although Wallace found that Trump engaged in insurrection, she determined Section 3 does not apply to him. Section 3 refers to some offices by name as well as those who are an “officer of the United States,” but does not specifically mention the presidency.

Wallace determined those who wrote Section 3 “did not intend to include the President as ‘an officer of the United States.’”

The judge also determined that the amendment’s provision technically applied to those who swear an oath to “support” the Constitution. The oath Trump took when he was sworn in after he was elected in 2016 was to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution.

Wallace wrote she did not want to disqualify someone from office “without a clear, unmistakable indication” that that was what those who wrote the 14th Amendment intended.

Even as she ruled in Trump’s favor, Wallace was unsparing in her description of his behavior before, during and after the attack on the Capitol. She found Trump has a “history of courting extremists and endorsing political violence” and knew his supporters were willing to engage in violence.

“The evidence shows that Trump not only knew about the potential for violence, but that he actively promoted it and, on January 6, 2021, incited it,” she wrote.

In Colorado and other states, Trump’s attorneys have argued the attack was not an insurrection, Trump did not participate in it and Trump told his supporters to act peacefully. In addition, they have contended Section 3 does not apply to the presidency and said Congress, not courts, should determine who is eligible to hold office.

The lawsuit was brought by six Republican and independent voters with the help of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington . Noah Bookbinder, the group’s president, said the voters would appeal the case to the Colorado Supreme Court soon.

“We are proud to have brought this historic case and know we are right on the facts and right on the law,” he said in a statement. “Today was not the end of this effort, but another step along the way.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Facebook, Instagram will allow political ads that claim the 2020 election was stolen

November 17, 2023

Meta will allow political ads on its platforms to question the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election—part of a rollback in election-related content moderation among major social media platforms over the past year ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential contest, reports CNN.

The policy means that Metathe parent company of Facebook and Instagramwill be able to directly profit from political ads that boost false claims about the legitimacy of the 2020 election. While the company will allow political advertisements to claim that past elections, including the 2020 presidential race, were rigged, it will prohibit those that “call into question the legitimacy of an upcoming or ongoing election.”

The change is part of a year-old policy update but has not been widely reported. The Wall Street Journal reported that Meta’s ads policy had changed on Wednesday, November 15.

Meta says the policy allowing 2020 election denialism in political ads was part of an August 2022 announcement about its approach to last year’s midterm elections, when the company said it would prohibit ads targeting users in the United States, Brazil, Israel, and Italy that discourage people from voting, call into question the legitimacy of an upcoming or ongoing election, or prematurely claim an election victory.

That same month, Meta told The Washington Post that it would not remove posts from political candidates or regular users that claim voter fraud or that the 2020 election was rigged.

Meta’s broader electoral misinformation policy continues to prohibit content that could interfere with people’s ability to participate in voting or the census, such as false claims about the timing of an election, according to the company.

“We wish we could say we were surprised Meta is choosing to profit off of election denialism, but it seems to be a feature of theirs, not a bug,” TJ Ducklo, a representative for the Biden campaign, told CNN in a statement about Meta’s ad policy. “They amplified the lies behind the ‘stop the steal’ movement. Now they’re coming for its cash. Joe Biden won the election in 2020 clearly, unequivocally, and fairly—no matter what Meta choose to promote.”

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Biden campaign’s statement.

Seprately, Meta said earlier this month that it would require political advertisers around the world to disclose any use of artificial intelligence in their ads, starting next year, as part of a broader move to limit “deepfakes” and other digitally altered misleading content.

The company also said it would prohibit political advertisers from using the its new artificial intelligence tools, which help brands generate text, backgrounds, and other marketing content.

Research contact: @CNN

Santos says he won’t seek re-election after release of ethics report

November 17, 2023

House investigators found “substantial evidence” that Representative George Santos (R-New York) knowingly violated a litany of ethics and criminal laws, according to a House Ethics Committee report released on Thursday, November 15, that prompted Santos to declare he would not seek re-election next year, reports The Washington Post.

“Representative Santos’ conduct warrants public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of the office, and has brought severe discredit upon the House,” Reps. Michael Guest (R-Mississippi) and Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania), the committee’s chairman and senior Democrat, said in a joint statement.

The report recommended that the allegations against Santos be referred to the Justice Department but stopped short of calling for Santos’s expulsion from the House or other discipline. Guest told reporters Wednesday that recommending punishment for Santos would have taken the panel several more months. Instead, he said, the report would simply be publicly released so that lawmakers could read it and “take whatever action that they felt necessary.”

Santos railed against the ethics committee on Thursday in a lengthy post on X in which he called the report a “disgusting politicized smear” and claimed that he was being “stoned by those who have flaws themselves.”

He added he would not be seeking reelection to a second term in 2024 after all, reversing course from a previous announcement in April that he would. Santos stepped down from his committee assignments in January.

According to the report, Santos was given an opportunity to submit to investigators a signed written statement responding to the allegations, but he did not do so. Santos also did not respond to the committee’s requests to submit documents, to voluntarily testify, or to provide a statement under oath.

The long-awaited report lays out the conclusions of the committee’s months-long investigation in scathing language. According to the committee, investigators compiled more than 170,000 pages of documents and testimony from dozens of witnesses, including financial statements, to reach its conclusion.

“Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit. He blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit,” the report stated.

It continued: “He reported fictitious loans to his political committees to induce donors and party committees to make further contributions to his campaign — and then diverted more campaign money to himself as purported ‘repayments’ of those fictitious loans.

“He used his connections to high value donors and other political campaigns to obtain additional funds for himself through fraudulent or otherwise questionable business dealings. And he sustained all of this through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience.”

Guest said he would file a motion to expel Santos on Friday morning, November 17, according to a person familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. The House can consider the motion upon its return from its holiday break on November 28.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Trump parrots Hitler—calling foes ‘Vermin,’ saying critics will be ‘Crushed,’ envisioning ‘Detention Camps’

November 15, 2023

Former President Donald Trump said that his political opponents were the most pressing and pernicious threat facing America during a campaign event in New Hampshire on Saturday, November 12—and that he would root them out like vermin, reports The New York Times.

Trump’s campaign rejected criticism that he was echoing the language of fascist dictators Hitler and Mussolini—then doubled down: It said on Monday that the “sad, miserable existence” of those who made such comparisons would be “crushed” when Trump was back in the White House.

“Those who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome,” a campaign spokesman, Steven Cheung, said, “and their sad, miserable existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House.”

At the Saturday campaign event, Trump vowed to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.” He then said his political opposition was the most pr

“The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave than the threat from within,” Trump said. “Our threat is from within.”

What’s more, Trump said he is planning a widespread expansion of his first administration’s hardline immigration policies if he is elected to a second term in 2024, including rounding up undocumented immigrants already in the United States and placing them in detention camps to await deportation, a source familiar with the plans confirmed to CNN.

An earlier version of Cheung’s statement—in which he said the “entire existence” of those critics would be crushed—was reported by The Washington Post on Sunday. Cheung said on Monday that he edited his initial statement “seconds” after sending it, and the Post amended its article to include both versions.

Ammar Moussa, a spokesperson for President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign, said in a statement that Trump at his Veterans Day speech had “parroted the autocratic language” of “dictators many U.S. veterans gave their lives fighting, in order to defeat exactly the kind of un-American ideas Trump now champions.”

Though violent language was a feature of Trump’s last two campaigns, his speeches have grown more extreme as he tries to win a second term.

At recent rallies and events, Trump has compared immigrants coming over the border to Hannibal Lecter, the fictional serial killer and cannibal from the horror movie “The Silence of the Lambs.”

He called on shoplifters to be shot in a speech in California and, over the weekend in New Hampshire, he again called for drug dealers to be subject to the death penalty. He has insinuated that a military general whom he appointed as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be executed for treason.

Last month, Trump told a right-wing website that migrants were “poisoning the blood of our country”—a phrase recalling white supremacist ideology and comments made by Hitler in his manifesto “Mein Kampf.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Senate Republicans erupt in anger over Tuberville’s military freeze

November 3. 2023

A surprising public confrontation this week has made clear that some colleagues of Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) have hit their limit as hundreds of senior military promotions remain stalled, reports The Washington Post.

The war in Gaza and a serious medical emergency suffered by the Marine Corps’ top officer have forced into the open months of simmering Republican frustration with Tuberville’s expansive hold on President Joe Biden’s military nominees—driving several of his colleagues to publicly denounce the gambit and urge Senate leaders to take immediate action to end the impasse.

Concerns about General Eric Smith’s apparent cardiac arrest on Sunday, October 29, coupled with fast-moving developments in the Middle East, have surfaced repeatedly this week as officials in Washington seek an off-ramp to the bitter political dispute between Tuberville and the Biden Administration that centers on the Pentagon’s travel policy for troops seeking an abortion.

Hundreds of senior military advancements have been stalled as a result, dating back to February.

On Wednesday night, November 1, a remarkable scene unfolded on the Senate floor as several Republicans, including Sens. Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Todd Young (Indiana) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) confronted Tuberville—imploring him to lift his hold for the sake of national security and proposing votes on individual officers whose promotions have been delayed. Tuberville rebuffed them one by one, blocking each proposed nominee as his colleagues’ frustration continued to rise.

The confrontation stretched nearly five hours, with Ernst, a retired Army officer, and Sullivan, a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, rotating to bring forward the bulk of 61 officers presented by name. They called out Tuberville for saying previously that he would relent on nominations that were brought forward for votes individually.

“Xi Jinping is loving this. So is Putin,” Sullivan said at one point, referring to top leaders in China and Russia. “How dumb can we be, man?”

Sullivan said that he has raised repeatedly with Tuberville an alternative plan in which he could put a hold on the nomination of Derek Chollet, a political appointee who has been nominated by Biden to serve as undersecretary of defense for policy, rather than nonpartisan military officers who have no role in the policy in question.

“The key is you put a hold on someone who typically has some kind of control over the issue you’re trying to fix,” Sullivan said. “Why are we putting holds on war heroes?”

Kelly Magsamen, chief of staff to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, said, “The world is watching. This isn’t a game.”

The surprising public confrontation made clear that some of Tuberville’s Republican colleagues have hit their limit, but it remains unclear if there is enough GOP support for a Democratic plan to temporarily change Senate rules to neutralize his blockade. That proposal is set to come to a vote in the next few weeks, and would need nine Republicans to support it.

In a brief interview Wednesday, Tuberville said he has no intent to change course. “We’re not going to start backing up now just because people are starting to start to get cold feet … on my side” of the political aisle.

He held firmly to this position as the evening’s theatrics wore on, declaring “I object” each time as his GOP colleagues, most with military backgrounds themselves, proposed an individual officer for a promotion.

At one point, Graham, his voice rising, said there’s a reason that no other senator had pursued a move like this for so long. “No matter whether you believe it or not, Senator Tuberville, this is doing great damage to our military,” he said. “I don’t say that lightly; I’ve been trying to work with you for nine months.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Justice Clarence Thomas reportedly attended Koch network donor events

September 25, 2023

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas flew on a private jet in 2018 to speak at the annual winter donor summit of the Koch network—a trip that was intended to be a fundraising draw for the influential conservative political organization, according to a report published on Friday, September 22, by ProPublica.

At the summit—held in Palm Springs, California—Thomas attended a private dinner for the Koch network’s donors, ProPublica says. According to the outlet, it was at least the second time Thomas had attended a meeting of the network founded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch and his brother, David Koch (the latter of whom died in 2019). Thomas did not disclose the 2018 trip, ProPublica reports.

According to a follow-up story by The Washington Post, the revelation adds to the controversies swirling around Thomas and the court more broadly. The issues have led Democrats to call for the nine justices to adopt a binding code of ethics and prompted some calls for Thomas’s resignation.

In its previous reports, ProPublica has explored other aspects of Thomas’s relationships with wealthy conservative donors, some of whom have interests before the court.

Representatives for the Supreme Court and for the Koch network, which is formally known as Stand Together, did not immediately respond to questions and requests for comment from The Washington Post on Friday morning.

In a lengthy statement to ProPublica, an unnamed spokesperson for Stand Together blasted the publication’s investigation as “advocacy journalism intended to discredit and undermine the Supreme Court.” The spokesperson also told ProPublica that Stand Together did not pay for the private jet and that the Supreme Court justice was not present for “fundraising conversations” at the 2018 event.

“There is a long tradition of public officials, including Supreme Court Justices, sharing their experiences, ideas, and judicial philosophy with members of the public at dinners and other events,” the Stand Together spokesperson wrote to ProPublica. “All of the sitting Justices and many who came before them have contributed to the national dialogue in speeches, book tours, and social gatherings. Our events are no different. To claim otherwise is false.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Google trial begins in first major tech antitrust case in decades

September 13, 2023

The Justice Department’s antitrust case against Google opened on Tuesday morning. September 12, in a packed Washington, D.C., courtroom—beginning a months-long trial that has the potential to subdue one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful juggernauts, reports The Washington Post.

The case revolves around whether Google illegally used its leading industry position to limit competition in its core search and search advertising businesses. It’s the first such antitrust trial against a technology company in more than two decades; the Justice Department took Microsoft to court on similar charges more than two decades ago.

“This wheel has been turning for more than 12 years and it always turns to Google’s advantage,” Justice Department attorney Kenneth Dintzer said in his opening statement.

“The evidence will show they hid and destroyed documents because they knew they were violating the antitrust laws,” he said. “That’s what Google did.”

In a sign of public interest in the case, the court set up an overflow room for members of the public to watch the trial, as well as two media rooms with at least 100 seats for reporters.

The case is being tried by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2014. Mehta narrowed the scope of the case last month—throwing out several of the government’s claims as insufficiently evidenced, while allowing others to proceed to trial.

Early into the opening statements on Tuesday, Mehta asked Dintzer when Google became a monopoly. Dintzer said it was ahead of 2010. “2010, we find them as a monopolist illegally maintaining their monopoly,” Dintzer said.

One central issue that will be debated in court in coming weeks is whether Google’s payments to device-makers like Apple to have its search engine built into their computers and phones as a default service—beginning in the early 2000s—constituted an abuse of monopoly power. Mehta also will evaluate if Google’s delays in allowing Microsoft access to its search advertising tool, Search Ads 360, amounted to illegal anticompetitive behavior.

Google’s search engine has maintained 90% market share for years, and there is little dispute that the company overwhelmingly dominates this sector. Whether Google abused this position against its rivals is a trickier question, involving arcane ins and outs of antitrust law. The Federal Trade Commission, for one, has had trouble meeting thresholds of proof in some of its recent efforts to rein in Silicon Valley giants.

But antitrust lawyers say that even when judges don’t hand down explicit penalties, such cases historically have curbed aggressive behavior of industry giants. They point to the rise of Google and other internet competitors in the wake of the Justice Department’s 2001 case against Microsoft, which ended in a settlement.

“Microsoft could have easily killed Google in the cradle—and Amazon and Facebook,” said Gary Reback, a Silicon Valley antitrust lawyer who spearheaded efforts that led to the case against Microsoft. “But they didn’t do that because of antitrust enforcement.”

The judgment in the Google case likely will not come until next year. It may be years more before it is clearer how the case has affected Google’s trajectory, including its prospects in the emerging artificial intelligence sector.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

U.S. nursing homes face minimum staff rule for first time

September 5, 2023

On Friday, September 1, the Biden Administration released a proposed rule requiring the nation’s nursing homes to hire minimum numbers of front-line caregivers—a long-anticipated response to decades of complaints about neglect and abuse in an industry that critics say is unprepared for the tsunami of seniors heading its way from the Baby Boom, reports The Washington Post.

If implemented as proposed, the new rule will make good on a promise that Biden made in his 2022 State of the Union speech 18 months ago. Its release has been delayed for months amid a furious lobbying pushback by industry trade groups, who say that a severe staff shortage makes mandatory staff levels unworkable and too costly.

“It’s meaningless to mandate staffing levels that cannot be met,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit providers, said Friday in response to the rule. Much of the rule would kick in within three years for urban facilities and five years for rural facilities.

While the industry reacted negatively Friday to the proposed rule’s release, the guidelines also were expected to disappoint advocates for better care in chronically short-staffed nursing homes, who have worried the new rule will not go far enough and merely enshrine mediocre levels of care.

The rule would require that each resident receive 2.45 hours of care from a nurse aide per day, plus 0.55 hours of care from a registered nurse. The combined three hours falls short of what a government study two decades ago said was the optimal level for quality care: 4.1 hours per day.

The government has said that around 33% of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes met that ideal threshold before the pandemic. Some 35 states have imposed their own minimum staffing standards on nursing homes, but only ten of those fall above three hours per day.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra said staff minimums are required to make sure residents get the care the government and families are paying for. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees nursing homes and drafted the rule, estimates 75% of nursing homes will have to boost staffing to meet the requirements.

The new rule also would require that nursing homes have a registered nurse on duty at all times. A fifth of nursing homes would have to hire registered nurses to meet the requirement, the government estimates.

“When facilities are understaffed, residents suffer,” Becerra said in a statement. “They might be unable to use the bathroom, shower, maintain hygiene, change clothes, get out of bed, or have someone respond to their call for assistance. Comprehensive staffing reforms can improve working conditions, leading to higher wages and better retention for this dedicated workforce.”

Advocates for better quality care in nursing homes say the industry’s high staff turnover rates point to the true problem: insufficient pay and poor working conditions.

The front-line workforce, which the government says represents about 500,000 people, is predominantly made up of women of color who earn low wages; it is common for them to work in multiple nursing homes simultaneously to earn a decent living, advocates say.

“They don’t have a hiring problem. They have a retention problem,” said Sam Brooks, director of public policy at National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, a nonprofit advocacy group, citing average staff turnover in nursing homes of 50% per year. “We call it a job quality crisis, not a hireability crisis. It’s clear that nursing homes don’t pay workers well; they don’t treat them well; and they don’t provide adequate training.”

Brooks also noted that the government has limited information about the financial balance sheets of nursing homes, which increasingly are operated by owners with multiple related companies that provide services to the facilities, siphoning away profits.

Research contact: @washingtonpost